The World I Come From
I am the son of a pastor in inner-city Chicago.
I was almost always at the church, if I wasn’t at school or doing homework. I spent my entire childhood surrounded by the tight-knit community that so often develops in black churches. We prayed together. We ate together. We surrounded and supported each other.
My father’s church is still there today.
In some ways, I had a sheltered childhood.
I couldn’t go to the movies, listen to secular music, or in my teenage years go out partying with my friends. But on the other hand, I was surrounded by a wide range of people who cared about me and exemplified helping other people become the best version of themselves.
In high school, as a joke, a friend of mine and I auditioned for the school play; I guess the real joke was on us because I made it!
To my surprise, I fell in love with the theater and the sense of community surrounding the act of creating art and telling a story. So much so that I went to college on a theater scholarship, believing that it was what I was going to do for the rest of my life.
A Crisis of Faith
In the university theater, I was exposed to extraordinary diversity.
Growing up, I’d been to a lot of different churches and met a lot of different people. In the fifth grade, my family moved from an all-black neighborhood and school to an all-white suburb and school — so I thought I’d understood that individuals are different.
But the college theater department was on a different level.
I was surrounded by people, good people—people who were better human beings than me!—who also held to beliefs that I’d grown up thinking were wrong or even bad. This led me to a crisis of faith. During this crisis, I was visiting home and came across a philosophy book that my brother had. It spoke to me on a visceral level. It addressed the questions I had in ways I’d never encountered before. I didn’t know what this kind of thinking or writing was, but I knew I needed more of it in my life.
For me, it was life-and-death.
When I discovered this kind of thinking was called “philosophy,” I abandoned my theater scholarship to change my major. I didn’t love theater any less than I had before, but I needed to know more about philosophy and how to reconcile my faith and my doubts.
So I set out to pursue life’s deepest truths through a graduate degree in philosophy.
My Search for Meaning Begins
The path to becoming a professor led me to encourage younger students to examine their ideas and think deeply about what it means to live a good life. But that made me realize I still had unfulfilled dreams of my own.
Philosophy saved my life by giving me the tools I needed to think critically about the issues I was struggling with, but a career teaching philosophy wasn’t something I was ready for quite yet.
I still had a lot of unfinished business with my own dreams.
I didn’t want to just be in a classroom talking with people a few years younger than me about what it means to live a good life. I wanted to be out there in the world following my own hero’s journey.
I wanted to create. I wanted to build things. I wanted to tell stories. I wanted to take truth and give it color, give it sound, give it rhythm.
I decided to do and pursue all the creative things that were in my heart. It was time to practice what I had been preaching.
Big Risk. Unexpected Reward
I auditioned for American Idol. I didn’t make it, but that wasn’t the important thing.
I had taken a step in the direction of my dream. I discovered the value of pursuing a goal, even if I know that it’s going to fail.
I moved to Los Angeles. I auditioned for parts in shows and commercials. I started networking as much as I could. I worked on many student films. And I got to know a number of people involved in the production part of filmmaking.
That’s how I discovered the entrepreneurship side of storytelling.
Entrepreneurship was like a revelation. It was somehow the combination of my two great loves—storytelling and philosophy—in action. The process of creating a product or service that you can serve to the world captured my heart.
My first startup was a film collaboration project with a few friends.
We managed for about four years, but like most startups, we ultimately failed.
That hurt. But I survived.
My next endeavor was as a business director for an independent film company. We managed to meet a ton of cool Hollywood producers and even came very close to getting one of our film projects greenlit, but ultimately fell short in a way that was a little heartbreaking.
But I survived that too.
A number of different projects I worked on didn’t pan out the way I’d hoped or worked for. And that was ok. I learned more from trying and failing than I ever did when things went exactly right.
I felt a sense of dissonance while working on these projects.
It’s hard to do this stuff. It’s hard to take risks. It’s hard to chase your dreams. It’s hard to dedicate yourself to a course of action that people you care about believe is crazy. It’s hard to get customers. It’s hard to get it right. It’s hard to wrestle with the brutal and honest nature of the market.
Everything I did was challenging, but I was also more alive than I’d ever been.
Bringing It All Together
It was around this time that my long-time friend Isaac Morehouse began developing his idea for Praxis, an apprenticeship program, and he pitched me on developing a philosophy learning module. I took on the work thinking it was a favor for a friend and once I was finished, I’d get back to doing the things I’d been working on before.
But as I was building this learning module, I became more and more excited.
Here was a thing that was blending all of the most important aspects of my life. Storytelling, philosophy, entrepreneurship.
And one more feature—a facet that I’d almost forgotten about: A passing on of knowledge and experience. A lighting of the way.
Helping other people become the best version of themselves.
Praxis started very small, but since I’ve been working there with Isaac, we’ve helped more than 300 young people launch successful careers at innovative businesses all over the country. As the Director of Education at Praxis, it’s been a privilege to help all of them pursue their goals and awake the creative power within themselves.
Paying it Forward
As a result of following my own dreams, I discovered what I believe to be the ultimate secret: the reason you should pursue the things that make you come alive is not that the universe guarantees victory to all our endeavors, but that dreams are the path to self-discovery and self-actualization. I realized that there was a superior version of me that was waiting on the other side of my fear. And by facing my fears and giving my dreams a shot, I was able to become a superior version of myself.
I want to share this secret with others. I want to help others find the clarity to discover what makes them come alive and the courage to get out there and actually do it.
It isn’t enough to simply possess goals. You can have the dream, but then you need to do the dream. It doesn’t just happen. I won’t tell you it’ll be easy, but it is possible. You have the authority and the ability to become the architect of your future and maximize your creative potential.
But you need to take action. And you can.
That’s what Revolution of One is all about.